On November 9, 2017, the Quebec government passed Bill 144, An Act to Amend the Education Act and other legislative provisions concerning mainly free educational services and compulsory school attendance. The law, which comes into effect next summer, was enacted to tackle the ongoing problem of illegal schools and better regulate homeschooling in the province.

The trigger for this law is a lawsuit brought by Yohanen Lowen and his wife Shira. The two are former members of Tash, a Chasidic religious Jewish community in Boisbriand, Quebec. Lowen left his community over ten years ago and discovered that his education left him completely unprepared for life on the outside.

Though Lowen can speak Yiddish and read Aramaic, he did not know basic arithmetic, nor could he read and write English and French. He and his wife are suing the provincial government for failing in their legal obligation to ensure that they, like all other children in Quebec, receive a proper education.

The case is due to be heard next fall, with the Education Ministry and leading members of the Tash community named in the suit. It should be noted that while Lowen is unemployed and making up for lost time by working for his high school diploma, neither he nor his wife are seeking financial compensation. What they want is a declaratory judgment forcing the government to make people in religious communities teach their children the provincial curriculum.

The issues at play are threefold. First, there is parental discretion and the right of parents to choose the education that will best prepare their children to be functioning members of society.

There is also the issue of government supervision which prevents child abuse and deprivation by setting legal limits on said parental discretion. This why, for example, parents can be punished for starving their kids or beating them into comas.

The third issue is one of discrimination and religious freedom. Quebec is currently a hotbed of intolerance with laws like Bill 62 exacerbating existing prejudices and emboldening the most vile members of society into expressing their hatred openly. There are concerns that because Bill 144 was enacted primarily to tackle illegal Chasidic schools, religious Jewish communities will be the primary targets of the new law.

I had the privilege of speaking to a Modern Orthodox Jewish couple who both work as educators within Jewish schools approved by the province. Like many religious Jews, they keep Kosher, and the Sabbath, and codes of modesty, but unlike members of ultra religious communities like Tash, they do not avoid pop culture and modern technology.

The male half of the couple, a Rabbi, pointed out the difficulty with legislation like this as in Quebec most schools receive public funds, and that to receive it they have to conform to certain standards set by the province. He explained that religious communities like Tash believe they are providing their children with a proper education, but it is an education that will only serve them if they choose to remain within the community. The kids are taught with the assumption that they will never leave, and therefore are given no lessons that would allow them to thrive outside of it.

Yohanen Lowen would have been just fine had he chosen to remain in Tash. His decision to leave is what created problems regarding the education he got.

Both the couple and another Orthodox Jewish teacher I spoke to agree that certain subjects should be taught in all schools, particularly basic science, math, English, and French. They do, however, point out that some curriculum topics interfere with the most literal interpretations of religious texts.

Science, for example, conflicts with creationism. Moral education lessons that teach about other religions which would be perceived as fostering cultural sensitivity for the less religious would be perceived as making kids question their faith by these communities.

Sadly, Bill 144 does not contain anything requiring that a basic curriculum be taught to homeschooled kids, not directly anyway. What the law says is that parents who choose to homeschool must send written notice to the competent school board in their area and submit a “learning project” for approval.

It also requires that parents inform their kids of their rights under the Quebec Education Act, specifically those covered in articles 14 to 17 which cover the rights of children in receiving an education. This includes the right of all children to attend school from the age of 6 to the age of 16.

The new law requires that the government set standards for home schooled children and specify how the local school boards can monitor them. It allows inspectors designated by Education Minister to enter premises suspected of schooling kids illegally and collect information on the children and their parents. The law permits the Education Ministry official to access the health records of children to confirm their identities.

It is the last part of the law that homeschooling advocates like Noemi Berlus, president of Quebec’s homeschooling association, take issue with, feeling that it is a violation of privacy. Education Minister Sébastien Proulx claims that the law is in accordance with Quebec’s privacy rules.

It is the imposition of a standard curriculum that has religious Jews most concerned, as some have pointed out that such a law could force these illegal schools deeper underground by either not registering their children, or sending them to the United States where education is not as closely monitored.

As it stands, Bill 144 is vague, and it is perhaps that vagueness that gives reason to hope, as assessments by inspectors and school board officials could use their discretion to be more culturally sensitive. What must be remembered, however, is that vagueness can also pave the way for more intolerant interpretations.

If Quebec is truly committed to a message of tolerance, the law must be applied to everyone regardless of faith and care must be taken to make sure groups are not targeted unfairly.

On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Muslim groups and civil liberty advocates launched the constitutional challenge we all knew was coming. Last week, I and many others predicted that Bill 62 would be headed straight for the courts on grounds that it violates the freedoms guaranteed in Canada’s constitution and Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights.

I’m not going to go over the details of Bill 62 as I did that last week. Instead, let’s talk about the legal challenge.

The plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge say in their court filing that:

“Such blatant and unjustified violations of freedom of religion, as well as of the quality guarantees of the Quebec and Canadian charters, have no place in Quebec or Canada,” and that this cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.

The plaintiffs include the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and Warda Naili (formerly Marie-Michelle Lacoste), a convert to Islam who has chosen to wear the niqab as an expression of her faith.

The CBC spoke to some women who wear the niqab, something the Couillard government failed to do before passing Bill 62. For the most part they claim they have no issue showing their faces for identification and medical purposes, but that the law’s insistence that they show their faces regularly is not only humiliating them and forcing them to act in violation of their faith, but has also exacerbated the harassment they’ve experienced due to their beliefs.

The law, it seems, has sent the message to the most bigoted repulsive members of Quebec society that harassing a woman for how she dresses is perfectly ok. All you have to do is claim religious neutrality and secularism.

The motion filed in Superior Court on behalf of the aforementioned groups comes despite claims by Premier Philippe Couillard that Bill 62 was written to ensure its compliance with the Canadian and Quebec Charters. Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée is also on the defensive, claiming the law only applies where uncovering one’s face is needed for communication, identification, or security. She’s said she believes the law will survive a constitutional challenge, though her confidence about this seems forced.

Other leaders in Quebec, including former Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, newly elected mayor Valérie Plante, and the Quebec Association of municipalities have all come out against the law with one exception.

In a rare show of solidarity, Parti Québecois leader Jean-François Lisée has come out in support of the law, though he wanted even stricter secularist legislation. In spite of this, he too foresaw the constitutional challenge and has stated that a PQ government would use the Notwithstanding Clause to keep it in place should the courts strike it down.

The Notwithstanding Clause Lisée is so fond of is not the perfect fail safe the PQ leader makes it out to be. It is not a way for the Quebec government to flip the judiciary the legal bird should the constitutional challenge not go their way.

Section 33 aka The Notwithstanding Clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says:

“Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.”

Sections 7 to 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms deal specifically with legal rights such as the rights of people charged with criminal conduct, as well as equality rights such as that of equal protection before the law and freedom from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. The clause allows governments to keep legislation that violates these rights in place provided they expressly declare that the law will remain in effect notwithstanding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms…

…But there is a catch.

The Notwithstanding Clause also contains a rule stating that this declaration and the law it allows can only remain in effect for five years.

The delay was created so legislators could rework the law in question to make it conform to the Charter. The five-year delay is renewable, but even laws the most stubborn politicians take pride in are reworked after being struck down by the courts.

Bill 101 is a perfect example. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled it unconstitutional, so the Quebec Government invoked the Notwithstanding Clause. During that time, the law was tweaked so it conformed to the Canadian Charter of Rights, thus eliminating the need to renew the Notwithstanding Clause and preventing future legal challenges to it.

Lisée’s mention of the Notwithstanding Clause is an indirect admission that Bill 62 is unconstitutional and would not survive a legal challenge. Once the courts strike it down and all government appeals are exhausted, it is certainly within Couillard and any other elected provincial government’s power to use and renew Section 33, but the Canadian people’s embrace of their Charter rights would make it a highly unpopular move.

With the striking down of Bill 62 a certainty, the only question left is how much more hate Quebec governments want to push on us.

St. Laurent Boulevard is set to lose a jewel of a bookshop as rising rents force a beloved bookseller into early retirement after 25 years.

On October 26th workers from 1-800-GOT-JUNK carried armfuls of books to the back of a dump truck. Inside Librairie T. Westcott, hidden behind stacks teetering on the verge of collapse, Terry Westcott sat behind the cash and sold books like it was a regular day.

The customers seemed more or less unaware that the bookstore he had run for so many years was being taken apart piece by piece behind him. For his part, Terry seemed to be playing along with the facade.

“Do you have a copy of Old Man and the Sea?” a woman asked. Terry smiled and pointed to a shelf a short distance away. “If we have any Hemingway it’s in the Literature section. But I don’t think we do at this time.”

“Oh well, I had to ask,” replied the woman and headed for the Literature shelf, dodging a worker clearing out books as she passed.

Outside, it started raining. The worker dutifully dumped his armload onto the growing pile of soggy books. “Don’t worry, it’s going in the recycling, not the dump,” the worker offered, as if trying to downplay some sense of personal culpability.

During a pause in the dramatic scene that was unfolding, I got a chance to ask Terry about his bookstore, why it was closing and his fondest memories of the place. Soft-spoken to the point of a whisper, he graciously obliged.

“My lease ended September of last year in 2016. Then in June the landlord came and told me that he had advertised the store for rent online and he’d received an offer of $4500 a month. There’s no way I can maintain a used bookshop at $4500 a month.”

Terry told me he would stay open as long as possible, until he was locked out. Some books would be donated, some would be sold, but most were headed for the dump truck.

“Yeah, it’s all going into the recycling. Around 20 000 books, altogether. It’s ridiculous.”

The inability to meet exorbitant rental fees is a familiar story along St. Laurent Boulevard. Every block of The Main contains at least one or two shuttered businesses. While Quebec has excellent rent control legislation in residential zones, small businesses like Terry Westcott’s survive at the whim of landlords, who can increase their rents to whatever price they can get from new tenants.

The loss of Librairie T. Westcott is a blow. A small store, Terry made use of every square foot. Organized by subject, piles of books reached close to the ceiling in places and navigating the aisles was sometimes a challenge. Whether Terry planned it this way or not, it had the effect of making each ‘find’ more gratifying, especially if you did it without causing a bookvalanche.

This is not to say things were disorganized. Once I laid down a number of heavy books I’d wanted to buy and when I came back for them five minutes later discovered that Terry had silently placed them all back in the their respective sections.

“A bookstore is a community, not just a business.” Terry said. Apart from hundreds of customers drawn in off the street, dozens of dedicated regulars came through his shop each month. “I read a sociological study that if a bookstore’s in the area, the crime rate drops by 30%. Somebody told me that Paris protects their bookshops [from rent increases]. I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

When asked about his fondest memories, he tells me it’s the community that he helped foster that he’ll miss the most: “People that are still book buyers and have a passion for books.”

He’ll also miss his two devoted regulars: “I had two little cats in the store and they’re a very fond memory. One died at 19, the other at 18.”

Their names? Emma (after Jane Austen) and Eliot (after T.S.). “The veterinarians could never get his name right, spelling it ‘Elliott’ like Pierre Elliott Trudeau.”

I ask him what he’ll do after he retires.

“Well, I’m 74 but I don’t want to retire. I’m still healthy and mentally active, I was hoping to continue. So I have no plans in particular. Maybe I’ll watch golf on television, read the newspaper. Maybe I’ll take in another cat, an older one. They have their lives to live too.”

At the time of writing, hundreds of books have been trucked away. The entire back wall is now bare in preparation for renovations by the new tenant.

But one thing is certain— as long as he can manage to keep his doors open, Terry and Librairie T. Westcott will continue to enrich the community he helped foster for the last quarter century.

* While it’s still open, T. Westcott Books is located at 4065 boul. St-Laurent

How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife.

On getting so wasted that you have to ask a friend to re-cap your night:

Starting the night looking like a well polished scary neon clown and ending it looking like a juggalette that gave too many blow jobs and has a five o clock shadow. She sat on the porch grinning in the darkness on Halloween night.

“It was a night. Stuff happened. Let’s sleep on the couch and watch scary movies.” Two minutes later she is ass up on her bed with her adorable lace panties (on top of her leggings) exposed. Bloody hands and an unlocked bike.

Goodnight sweet clown, we will talk in the morning. I love that human more than words can explain, as I say in shows, I masturbate over her while she sleeps. Jk.

So, um. What is up with running in your ex on Halloween at basement punk shows?

This holiday seems to bring out everyone you have ever fucked or wanted to fuck and place them in the same crusty basement as you. My bestie once threw a punch at her ex in a mosh pit, “You better be drunk.” She did it because he was an asshole and she was drunk. Runs into the same ex wearing his “appropriate” undersized Misfits tee and acid wash mom jeans.

I remember one Halloween running into someone I excommunicated from my life, he immediately put his arm around me (and wasn’t wearing a costume mind you, fucking pathetic). I quickly lifted it off. I was very proud of myself in that moment. I came a long way to physically lift him off me.

My friend saw it go down and was going to come save me, but I did it myself before she had the chance. It is important to stay true to your convictions.

I am trying to write this while listening to my roomie watch a horror movie, she figured she would get it in the day after. I have such a visual mind that what I am imagining is probably worse than what is actually on the screen. Or not, shit is brutal these days. Horror flicks are all about that gore. I have a hard time with anything past Evil Dead, the first 15 Scream movies, Chucky, Freddie, Jason, and all the classics. Modern horror just grosses me out.

It’s either raining or the Babadook is outside. I was stoned watching scary movies all night and my other rookie’s boyfriend came over, I heard him on the porch and around back, but he didn’t knock, he was texting her and she was asleep.

I picked up a giant stick and was going to beat his ass with it until he said who he was. Real gore on beggars night. Glad that didn’t happen. Don’t scare couch stoners. We are delicate creatures.

I will always be a fan of Tim Curry as It. I based my routine on It for the She Lives Whorer 2 Show. The next day I was Trump and sat on a toilet I had to carry down three flights of stairs with my lady. We were covered in poo water for art.

Trump is more frightening than Pennywise the dancing clown because THAT SHIT IS REAL. News is the scariest fucking truth!

You know what else is real? The Midnight Meat Train, Bradley Cooper’s first starring role and he is a vegan climbing on carcasses running from an evil butcher. I couldn’t stomach it and had to write this blog.

I will watch some stand up or a lighthearted rom com with her after as a reward. Not knowing anything about the movie I decided that the meat train was a drunk forgotten night gone wrong, or maybe a gay gang bang porno, possibly a special steak hoagie, or a GO VEGAN PSA! Yeah thats it.

Spoiler alert…

Weird, it was about lizard people the whole time.

Four years after the Parti Québecois’ colossal defeat over their quietly racist but aggressively secular Charter of Values, and less than a year after a man entered a mosque in Ste Foy, Quebec and opened fire, the government we elected to spite them is bringing up a debate no one wanted to hear. Last week, the Quebec Liberals under Premier Philippe Couillard passed Bill 62, “An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality” and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations or religious grounds in certain bodies.

It should be said right off the bat that this law is clearly a political ploy. The Couillard government is up for re-election in 2018. With scandal after scandal rocking his administration, he’s clearly given up on his base and is trying to attract the most secularist racist members of Quebec society who would otherwise vote for the Parti Quebecois.

It is also clear that it is meant to discriminate against non-Christians in Quebec. The law acknowledges Quebec’s history, but the decision to leave the cross up in the National Assembly means that their version of history leaves out the Jews, Muslims, and other groups that have made the province what it is today.

With all the talk about how this law will hurt people, we need to look at what it actually says.

The law applies to all employees of government departments, members of the Quebec public service, city employees with the exception of those governed by the Cree and Naskapi, public transit authorities, school boards, universities, and vocational colleges, peace officers, doctors, midwives, dentists, and anyone else appointed by the government. The employees of childcare centers and government-subsidized daycare centers are also subject to the new rules. Anyone seeking services from these bodies is also subject to the new law.

That means that contrary to the belief that the law will only affect public transport employees and people who work in government offices, teachers at all levels as well as doctors, dentists, and midwives will be subject to this law, as well as anyone who benefits from their help i.e. students, people who ride the bus or metro, and even people in need of medical care.

The law’s mantra is one of State religious neutrality, as the words “religious neutrality” are repeated constantly throughout its text. It requires that all employees subject to this law keep their faces uncovered in the execution of their duties. It also requires that anyone seeking services from employees bound by this law have their faces uncovered in order to receive them.

As only some Muslim women are required by their faith to keep their faces covered in public, the law is clearly written to prejudice them. However, as the law is pretty unclear. People with colds or flus who generously choose to cover their faces in public in order to avoid spreading illness could also find themselves denied services. The government is scheduled to put out a regulation clarifying certain aspects of the law in the near future.

Bill 62 does have some exceptions written into it. People who provide spiritual care and guidance in universities, vocational schools, and correctional facilities are exempt. Health professionals will not be barred from refusing to provide certain medical services that conflict with their spiritual beliefs. For everyone else, there is a process by which you can apply for accommodation on religious grounds, but it is a limited and complicated one.

Applications for accommodations must be based on the right to freedom from discrimination provision in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Requests for accommodation will be handled primarily by the justice minister, who has to decide the request on the following grounds:

  • “The request is serious”
  • The accommodation requested is consistent with notions of gender equality, specifically that between women and men
  • The request is “consistent with the principle of State religious neutrality”
  • The accommodation is “reasonable and does not place undue hardship” on the state and the person seeking it has already tried to find another solution

Where the law would force someone to be absent from work, additional criteria must be taken into account:

  • The frequency and duration of the absences on religious grounds
  • The size of the body the person works for and the “interchangeability” of its workforce – in other words, if the person can easily be replaced, they will likely not be accommodated
  • The consequences of the person’s absences
  • The possibility of a modified work schedule or use of bankable hours and vacation days
  • Fairness regarding other personnel in said government body

More rules apply where the law affects school attendance. The criteria in this case include how a refusal to accommodate will affect compulsory school attendance, the schools’ basic mission to impart knowledge “in keeping with the principle of equal opportunity” and the ability of the school to provide the educational services required by law.

The arguments in favor of Bill 62 are twofold.

Couillard has publicly said that he should be able to see a person’s face when dealing with them, a remark that is not only culturally insensitive, but also rules out any exchanges done by phone or email.

The other argument is one of benevolent sexism masquerading as feminism, specifically that the law will somehow save women from oppressive religious practices. This presumes that women who wear a niqab are doing so because someone coerced them to, or they simply don’t know better. It’s an argument that infantilizes the women by making the presumption that they are not mature enough to make their own decisions about how to publicly express their faith.

This law does not save anyone. It robs them of their sense of agency. If a woman can only leave her house with her face covered and she is welcome at government funded institutions as such, she may feel comfortable going to a public library and grabbing a book on feminism. She may also be comfortable going to a sports center to take a self-defense class.

The law clearly violates the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms rules against religious discrimination and the freedom of religion and equality rights of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The moment this law comes into effect there is sure to be a constitutional challenge to it.

Let’s take comfort in that.

* Featured illustration by Samantha Gold

Vice President Mike Pence, you know the asshole who believes in “conversion therapy” was recently in my hometown of Buffalo NY to support another known fascist, congressman Chris Collins, and attend a thousand dollar a plate lunch at Salvatores, which is a gaudy, ugly decorated, and ridiculous in itself place. My one star Facebook review was taken down, interesting.

I wonder if women were allowed to attend since Mrs. Pence, aka Mother, was not there? Just in case you didn’t get the memo, this guy can’t eat in the company of any female if his wife is not there. No $1000 spaghetti and meatballs for Mikey today.

Protestors started the party with dancing. We wanted to recreate the big gay rave outside of Mike’s house during inauguration week in DC. “Daddy Pence come DANCE with us!”

Food not bombs brought tea and vegan chili. There were rainbows galore. I really think a sing a long of Danzig’s Mother while taking a knee would have been most appropriate as he passed.

The motorcade zipped by us so quickly. Like a flash from a movie. All of the cops shut down heavy traffic from all directions on one of our biggest intersections. Then came the black vehicles that looked ominous and official to say the least. There was also a random U-Haul… if I were him I would have totally rode in the U-haul.

We had to stay on the sidewalk, the cops said dance as much as you want. The counter protestors, alt right self militia assholes, stood on the perimeter with antiquated headsets that probably didn’t even work. They took photos of us and we documented them just the same.

They were so obvious. One man had a shirt on that said Karl’s Kar Klub… ummm when three things that should be spelled with a C are changed to Ks I have a feeling you are a flaming disgusting pig of a racist.

Another woman wore a yellow jacket and 90s apparel. She looked like a crazy church mom who would so nicely tell you to drink the Koolaid and strap up your white sneakers.

Another really confused me, he was a young white kid with dreads! If you can appropriate black culture then support a white supremacist scumfuck then you are an extra gross enigma.

One of the alt right jerks confronted me when I walked over to my car alone, “Are you supposed to be president trump?” “Yes” I responded. Then they asked if I was for or against him, I said VERY AGAINST, and then he laughed “Well the president doesn’t look anything like that!” “HOW DID YOU KNOW WHO I WAS THEN ASSHOLE?” I then proceeded to show him my chocolate skid marked tighty whities and walk away, that’s the president he voted for. Cheeto jesus with shitty undies.

So I saw Mikeyboy on tv at a machine company in Collins district later that day. He was talking about tax reform that would only help the rich while in one of the poorest rustbelt cites in the country, WTF? Just like everything else in this wretched regime it made no sense to me.

When people yelled “GET A JOB” at us from their giant gas guzzling cars I wanted to yell, fix our economy and stop raping the poor! I have two jobs and make time to fight for what I believe in because I must.

All and all it was a pretty non-eventful, peaceful protest. Queers for Racial Justice got us out there and informed. I was happy to be magically off work that day and ready to rumble, he has to know that he is not welcome here.

Haters and bigots can go fuck off, we will always be here to shut them down peacefully. I will happily not use my milk of magnesia stash today or take a rubber bullet to the guts.

We need to fight them with all we got. Get out there and physically protest! Make your everyday life a protest!

Respect my existence or expect my resistance! (That was my favorite sign there so I chose to carry it.) If you are an artist you better be making art about how this government makes you feel. It is our job to take them down.

Remember that people died at Stonewall so you can hold your girlfriend’s hand in public. We have come a long way and are in danger of getting those rights stripped by assholes in power. We must stand up for those who cannot. There was a transwoman in a wheelchair leading chants. We all need to be more like her!

I am dressing up like Donald Trump again this Saturday for The Stripteasers Haunted Whitehouse show at Nietzsche’s because nothing is scarier than our current political state in the US. I have been dubbed The Alec Baldwin of burlesque, and I am ok with that.

I hate being trump to be honest with you. Its hard to be an asshole, I am a method actor so I become the character. I will be sitting on stage on an actual toilet reading his actual stupid tweets all night long.

Twitter on the shitter, thats what we get folks. This is real life. Save us all…

It is utterly disgusting that in 2017 we still need to have conversations about the unacceptability of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Though our laws guarantee equality of the sexes and freedom from discrimination, the fact that so many Canadians shared the hashtag #MeToo indicates that sexual harassment and assault are still very much a problem.

For those unfamiliar with the #MeToo movement, it started with reports that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted the women he worked with. The hashtag was used to show the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and assault, the idea being that if every victim shared it on their social media feed, society would finally understand how vast the problem is.

This article is a primer on sexual harassment and assault in Canada.

Sexual harassment is a form of harassment based on the person’s sex. According to the Quebec Institut National de Santé Publique, legally a victim must prove three things in order to prove sexual harassment:

  1. “Unwanted sexual behaviour
  2. That manifests itself repeatedly, and
  3. That has adverse effects on its victims.”

The behavior can be anything from words to actions to posters, but for the victim it has to feel “targeted and unwelcome” with adverse effects. In Quebec the behavior has to be repetitive and harassment can manifest itself in being denied raises or promotions in retaliation for refusing sexual advances, or sexual behavior in the workplace that creates a hostile environment for the victim(s).

Legal recourse for victims of sexual harassment can consist of filing a complaint against your employer with the Commission des Normes de Travail (CNT), filing a civil liability suit against their harasser, or lodging a criminal harassment complaint which could get the offender up to ten years in jail. The employee could also, where applicable, file a complaint for psychological harassment with the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (CSST) and request compensation if the harassment is so severe he or she can no longer work.

Now let’s talk about sexual assault and consent.

Sexual assault is any application of force to another person that is sexual and without the other person’s consent.

Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It can be withdrawn at any time, and there is no consent where the victim was coerced, incapable of agreeing to the sexual activity due to their age or, for example, because they’re unconscious, or if someone agreed to the activity on their behalf.

There is also no consent if you abuse a position of power or trust, or of course, if the person expresses lack of consent. Passivity does not constitute consent.

Without consent, there is sexual assault. The penalty for sexual assault in Canada is a maximum penalty of five years, or if a weapon was used causing bodily harm, a maximum of ten years.

Myths

That said, we need to debunk a few myths:

  • MYTH: A woman’s behaviour or style of dress provokes sexual assault

The argument goes like this:

“If she’d been more modest (in dress or behavior) this never would have happened.”

No behavior or manner of dress excuses sexual assault.

Arguments about behavior and dress shift the blame from the assaulter to the victim, and reinforce toxic gender stereotypes against men and women by claiming that sexual assault is a woman’s problem, and that the reason assaults happen is because men are horny aggressive beasts who can’t control themselves and women provoke them.

Here’s a wakeup call: conservatively dressed people get assaulted, as do less conservatively dressed people. Quiet, modest people get assaulted, as do the bombastic and loud. Men get assaulted, as do women. To quote the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centers:

“Offenders are solely responsible for their own behaviour.”

  • MYTH: Sexual Assault is over reported

Less than ten percent of all sexual assaults are reported.

There is a huge stigma associated with reporting assaults, making harder on the victim than on the offender. This is likely because our culture still lacks a proper grasp of what constitutes consent. As a result victims are often interrogated and dragged through the mud about their behavior before and after the assault, rather than their attackers.

  • MYTH: It’s not Sexual Harassment if the victim does not complain about it

The unequal relationship that often exists between employees and their harasser will often lead to silence for fear of causing conflict that could jeopardize their job.

  • MYTH: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault are Women’s Problems

Men are often the victims of sexual harassment and assault, though it is likely that the available numbers about it are a modest estimate due to under-reporting.

The stigma associated with males reporting their victimization is likely because our society still adheres to notions of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity pushes a narrow and repressive notion of what it means to a man, specifically that any display of stereotypically feminine traits, such as emotional vulnerability or even being victimized makes you less of a man. According to a 2015 article in Psychology Today, the men most likely to be victims of sexual harassment were those who deviated from stereotypical notions of masculinity by being members of a sexual minority or being involved in feminist causes. Men who challenged traditional gender roles were also more likely to be victimized.

It should be said that even if sexual harassment and assault were strictly women’s problems, it does not lessen importance of fixing the problem. If we as a society recognize that women are fully human, a problem that affects only them must be recognized as a problem that hurts us all.

It should also be said that gender segregation is not a solution because it puts the onus of avoiding harassment and assault on the people who are victimized. This encourages and exacerbates a culture of victim blaming.

So what is the solution?

We need to teach people about consent as early as possible, that means teaching kids about the importance of personal physical boundaries and evils of sexism and unwanted touching. The lessons should be taught to all genders and not just to girls as they generally are now.

Schools should have a zero-tolerance policy about sexual harassment and assault and even something we used to think of as a common joke – snapping bra straps – should be recognized as a form of assault and punished accordingly. Our education ministries would be wise to consult experts on sexual harassment and assault to better develop these policies and education programs.

The rules in Quebec about sexual harassment need to change.

Under our current rules, isolated incidents of sexual harassment are not considered as such, and they should be, particularly if the actions or words of the offender are significant enough to make a work environment hostile for the victim. A boss who tells a female employee “fuck me or you’re fired” and does not pursue it further should be seen as just as much of a harasser as one who regularly makes sexist jokes around his or her coworkers.

Last but not least, we need to better screen judicial appointees and law enforcement to ensure that, for example, people like former superior court judge Robin Camp are NEVER allowed to decide a rape case.

Law enforcement needs to be better trained to treat the victims like victims so they’re not so scared to come forward. Anyone lacking proper knowledge and empathy to deal with issues of sexual violence should be made to undergo sensitivity training and pass an exam to secure their position. Those who fail should be denied employment.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are problems that affect us all. There’s no avoiding it, and there’s no denying it.

It’s time we fight it.

There’s something we need to talk about. The city of Montreal likes to position itself as a cultural mecca. They finance enormous already-profitable events, spend billions renovating large touristic spaces and pay millions of dollars to light up a bridge. All of that has economic value and I understand why they do it. But, tourism and culture are two different things.

The underground arts community is where every superstar has cut his, her or their chops and where real cultural evolution takes place before it works its way into mass media. Over the last few years, the city’s policies have inadvertently been hurting Montreal’s arts scene. Whether we’re talking about complications related to noise regulations, zoning bylaws or licensing issues, most people in the underground arts community have stories that paint a different narrative.

My story starts about eight years ago. Before Facebook became ubiquitous, independent artists and event presenters had one crucial and affordable way of promoting their events: posters. The city provided little to no space for community announcements and so artists and event presenters used public lampposts to promote their activities. The problem, of course, was that this was illegal.

A group of independent event producers that included Pop Montreal and the Montreal FRINGE Festival were so aggravated by repeated fines imposed by the city that they formed C.O.L.L.E., a working group to address the issue, in 2010. This allowed a conversation to start about a question that disproportionately effects underground creators, since most don’t have the means to buy expensive advertising space.

That same year, the Quebec Superior Court ruled Montreal’s anti-postering law to be illegal and unenforceable. The decision found that unless the city provides space for its residents to display posters and community notices, a regulation limiting their distribution on city property violated its citizens’ free speech rights. After this decision, the city stopped fining event presenters and bands, putting the question to bed temporarily.

The court’s decision gave the city six months to rewrite its postering bylaws. Seven years later, that has still not happened and public postering spaces have not been installed in numbers that come close to satisfying the court’s requirement – this despite numerous proposals and pilot projects presented to the city by members of its cultural community. City employees, though, have again started operating as if the activity were illegal.

I run a cultural business with a few different departments, one of which is a street marketing agency that distributes materials in print and digitally to indoor and outdoor spaces around Montreal to promote cultural activities. We have some clients that are big companies. But, most are independent festivals, labels, venues and artists with limited means. Postering can represent a significant portion of their communications and our work promoting their event on their behalf is unjustly effected.

The city seems to have overlooked this legal precedent and the moral imperative it sets out. Municipal employees seem to still believe that postering is illegal, a falsehood that prompts harassment from city works employees, garbage collectors and most often the police.

The city also prints and installs signage on lampposts warning would-be posterers of that activity’s illegality, citing a regulation that to the best of my research no longer exists – and if it did, it would be unenforceable. It spends time and money installing ridged lampposts meant to make postering more tenuous covered in anti-adhesive paint. It spends hundreds of thousands (and possibly even millions) of dollars every year hiring staff to rip posters off of its lampposts; money that is not counterbalanced by revenues from postering fines, which would be illegal to collect given the current legal context.

In short, this problem from 2010 has resurfaced in a slightly different context. Montreal is, to my knowledge, the only major city in Canada that does not provide public postering space to its citizens. There have been proposals presented by Montreal’s cultural community, including one from myself, which would, it should be noted, not only eliminate costs but generate revenue for the city and which I would be glad to talk more about. But, the city has never dealt with the problem despite the efforts of its creative class to resolve it.

Why should you care? There are three reasons. Firstly, it is your money being wasted. The city spends our tax dollars as it sees fit and bears a serious fiscal responsibility. There are so many city workers now charged with keeping posters off lampposts on major arteries in the city centre that posters are often torn down within the day or even a few hours.

Second, this is a liability for the city and it is your money that will be at risk should a group of citizens decide to sue the city for having supplanted their free speech rights.

Lastly, and this may even be the most important reason, it’s essential to recognize the cultural enrichment being withheld from the public. Emerging musicians, comedians, dancers and visual artists can’t afford to buy ad time on TV, the radio, in the metro or on the sides of city buses. Postering is the one analog real-world promotional avenue in a digitized media-scape that is accessible to our city’s artists and creators. It is affordable, democratic and honest.

I hope you’ll understand my frustration and please know that I’m available to continue the conversation. I’m confident that the municipal government is not indifferent to this issue, since we can all agree that Montreal’s place as a creative hub forms an essential part of the city’s identity. I would like to work to bring about solutions that strengthen our arts community and invite the city and its citizens to join the conversation.

Sincerely,

 

Jon Weisz
Founding Director
Indie Montréal

People tell me things they would not tell anyone else, not their mom, not even their therapist or childhood best friend. I get bro status instantly when most girls would not. Guys hear that I like girls too (I like all humans) and assume that I want to hear about all the dirties of their sex life instantly. I’m not mad, always looking for artistic inspiration.

This is what brings us to the topic of erotic asphyxiation. A guy was telling me how he was fucking a girl half his age and she liked to be choked.

Another guy told me about the first girl that ever asked him to choke her and how it felt powerful. One time they were in the act and he was choking her and her eyes rolled back into her head. Her body went limp. He then slapped her awake. She said “Thank you for bringing me back,” then he continued fucking her.

What the fuck? This disturbed me. Who would want that? Choke out a young girl, thats not making love, thats some carnal strange right there. She asked for it, he said. She wanted it. She was looking for a little pain, a little pause in time and oxygen deprivation.

I bruise easily so I never really wanted to try it. But one time I was hooking up with someone and they were definitely dominant, and knew what they were doing. Their expert hands knew the exact pressure point to hit to cut off oxygen without hurting me. It felt like a whip. I needed to tap out, it was too intense, and not in a sexual way.

Erotic asphyxiation or breath play is when you intentionally restrict the flow of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. The term autoerotic asphyxiation is used when the act is done by a person to themselves.

Gasper is used to describe a person participating in this fetish. Author George Shuman describes the effect as such, “When the brain is deprived of oxygen, it induces a lucid, semi-hallucinogenic state called hypoxia. Combined with orgasm, the rush is said to be no less powerful than cocaine, and highly addictive.”

When death occurs during auto-erotic asphyxiation often the families will “clean up” the scene and make it not seem sexual, but like suicide. If a partner is involved it can be classified as murder even if there was consent. Thats crazy!

Back to my conversation with the dirt ball. He also added “of course the girls are always younger” as if it would be gross to sleep with a woman his age or older. The other guy stated that he liked older women. I wonder if it was because he wanted to sleep with me.

Daddy complex- so many older men fetishize young girls, like the only creatures capable of sex are young fertile girls. It is absolutely disgusting how children are sexualized by the media for consumption by the scummy old men who rule the world. Goes the other way too when younger people are looking for sexual “guidance” perhaps to make up for a lack of actual parents in their life. A whole generation is being raised by the internet and are incapable of healthy relationships because of this.

Mommy complex- while most men seek out younger women they also take advantage of older women to do things like their cooking and laundry. For the most part they want to be treated like babies and also fuck babies.

Some people also put themselves into the mom role. I definitely do this. This is still problem, but a little less creepy. I will never have children pop out of my body but I will have an influence on younger people. I will help others grow with my wisdom and resources.

I love to feed people, I love having people in my home and cooking them a vegan feast. I will go without to fill someone else’s belly. I care about others in that ever loving maternal way.

For me, I feel funny if someone is much younger than me. When on dating sites/apps I usually swipe away from even 21-22 year olds because I know they are in a much different place than my 30 year old ass.

Do I fuck them to feel young? Is it like Elizabeth Báthory bathing in their blood? Ageism is rampant in porn and the sex industry. Age is a fetish too: nubile lolita vs dried up spinster, youth vs experience, it’s all what you are looking for.

Burlesque is so appealing because there no age restrictions. All bodies are beautiful and inspiring vessels. Everyone is fucking sexy! Old and fuckable are not oxymorons!

I love that people like to tell me the gory details, knowing that not many other people would be as impressed by their filth. I love being the one who knows the thing you can’t tell anyone else. I don’t get grossed out. I do disgusting shit everyday. We all do.

How do you react when you know dirt about someone your friend is thinking of dating though… like they start describing a random tinder hookup that they are falling in love with… same physical description, kinda average, kinda whatever… same job… wait he started what?… awww fuck that’s the guy that ____ to my friend when she was _____ and you think that maybe he _____ to you but you want to justify what happened.

Like staying with a phone company that sucks just to get an angry but loyal customer discount. You asked me if I ever stole anything from anyone.

We ate brunch, vegan tofu hash with a pita, strong coffee with almond milk, you had a bloody mary, we both hate olives. You very loudly told me about all of your sexplotations and adventures spanning the course of continents.

A man sat in earshot pretending to read. I forgot his name but we definitely knew each other. I did not make eye contact.

Hopefully our explicit conversation inspires him to make art. Us talking dirty on the patio of a cafe on a fall morning makes Buffalo that much more sexy. That kind of girl lives there, artists having conversations about art, sex, traveling, ridding ourselves of negative energy, and bonding over coffee and early morning alcohol that’s ok because it’s in tomato juice like a meal.

Talking about choking, fucking outside, and so much more. Things were said that would make anyone gasp. I know he had to read those pages over. We acknowledged each other as he left, he said he didn’t want to interrupt our conversation. You are welcome sir.

One of the ways to persecute is to rob people of their history. This was done by male historians seeking to undervalue the contributions of women. It was done by white historians seeking to confirm racist ideologies.

Now a group of all white judges has entrenched the power of a body created by a white majority government to rob the victims of residential schools of their history. On October 6, 2017 the Supreme Court of Canada made it legal for the authorities in charge of compensating the victims of the residential school system to destroy the records of the abuse after a given delay.

Before we get into why the highest court in Canada came to this decision, we need to talk about residential schools.

Residential schools refer to a system of schools established by the Canadian government and run by Christian religious groups in an attempt to assimilate the Native population into Canadian society. They operated in Canada from the late 1860s to the 1990s. Despite remarks by such insensitive racist imbeciles as Senator Lynn Beyak, the schools were a nightmare for the children and their families, the effects of which are still felt to this day.

During this period, children were ripped from their parents and forced to live at these schools where they were beaten, tortured, and raped in an attempt to wipe out their language, culture, and history. Parents who refused to give up their children were threatened with starvation. Survivor Ronnie Otter’s parents were told their winter rations would be withheld if they didn’t send their kids away.

Many of the victims who went as children are still haunted by memories of being forced into oral and anal sex, scrubbed raw with rough brushes, and fed food more fit for livestock. Though they were promised good schooling, they were given a fifth grade education and trained to do manual labour such as agriculture, housework, and woodworking, not unlike in the Bantu education system of apartheid South Africa.

In 2008, the Canadian government under Stephen Harper issued a much needed formal apology to the victims and their families. In the apology the Canadian government formally recognized that:

“…this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country… ”

It should be noted however that while Canada’s Anglican, Presbyterian, and United Churches have apologized for their role in what happened to the eighty thousand survivors and their families, the Catholic Church has not. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops claims that the independence of individual dioceses and their bishops absolves them of any responsibility. It is both ironic and unfortunate that the authorities of a religion so dependent on symbolism are incapable of providing even a symbolic show of remorse so desperately needed by people tortured in their name.

That said, let’s talk about how and why the Supreme Court came to their decision.

The records referred to in the Supreme Court’s decision are specifically those from the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) resulting from the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The Agreement was the result of a consensus reached between the legal representatives of survivors, the Churches involved, the Assembly of First Nations and other aboriginal organizations and the Government of Canada on how to address the legacy of residential schools. It was brought on by numerous class action lawsuits against the Canadian government by the victims of residential schools seeking compensation and recognition for the persecution they endured.

Among the things agreed upon was a Common Experience Payment for all eligible survivors of the residential schools, a form of financial compensation for the victims of abuse at the hands of the government and the Churches acting in its name. Eligibility was determined by the Independent Assessment Process which entailed survivors disclosing extremely sensitive information about the abuse they suffered and the consequences therein. The information also included medical reports, hearing transcripts, and reasons for decisions in each case, all of which are held by the Government of Canada. The overall goal was to determine the credibility of each claimant and the harm they suffered.

As per the Supreme Court’s ruling, these records can be destroyed after fifteen years, though individuals can apply to have the information in their files preserved. The Court decided on destruction of the records after a certain delay for a few reasons, the primary one being that of confidentiality.

The Supreme Court decided that all participants in the Independent Assessment Process agreed on destruction of the information as part of the high degree of confidentiality of the process, the same way one would for a contract. Confidentiality was agreed upon in part to allow the victims to retain ownership of their stories and the horror of what they endured while maintaining their privacy. It was also to ensure the participation of religious organizations that would not have done so otherwise despite their active participation in the abuse.

The Court also stated that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established as part of the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was for “creating a complete historical record of the residential schools system, and promoting awareness and public education of Canadians about the residential schools system and its impacts”. The court said that those who participated in the IAP were welcome to share their experiences with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and that the confidentiality rules ensured them that choice.

The decision appears to be based on preserving the dignity of Residential School survivors, but it has a flipside of destroying records of abuse that implicate the government and religious groups that should be held to account for what they did. Though a survivor may want to keep their experience confidential, that can change in fifteen or sixteen years whether or not they apply to preserve the records. At the end of the day, the only people this decision protects are the abusers and the people who allowed it by destroying the evidence.

This past Monday, after nearly three weeks of jury selection, the trial for Lac Mégantic began in Sherbrooke. Train engineer Thomas Harding, 56, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and manager of train operations Jean Demaître, 53, all face forty seven counts of criminal negligence causing death. If found guilty, they will each face life in prison.

For those of you who don’t remember, here’s a recap of what happened on that fateful day in 2013.

On July 5, 2013 a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train carrying 7.7 million liters of petroleum crude oil arrived at Nantes, Quebec bound for Saint John, New Brunswick and the locomotive engineer parked the train. Another engineer was scheduled to take his place the next day.

The engineer contacted the rail traffic controller in Farnham, Quebec, and then the rail traffic controller in Bangor, Maine. To the latter, the engineer said the locomotive had been having mechanical difficulties throughout the trip, causing excessive amounts of black and white smoke. As they both believed the smoke would settle, they agreed to leave the train as is until the next morning.

Some time after the first engineer left, firefighters were called in to deal with a fire on the train. They shut off the locomotive’s fuel supply and the electrical breakers inside, as per railway instructions. Firefighters also met with a railway employee and track foreman who’d been sent to the scene, but neither had locomotive knowledge. They contacted the rail traffic controller in Farnham, and the train departed shortly afterward.

What happened next is rather technical unless you’re a mechanical engineer, so I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.

Mechanical difficulties on the train got worse, affecting the brakes of the locomotive which are used to help regulate speed. At 1 am on July 6, 2013, the train headed downhill towards the town of Lac Mégantic. Without the locomotive effectively controlling its velocity, the train picked up speed. At 1:15 am the train derailed, spilling 6 million liters of crude oil and causing a large fire and multiple explosions.

Forty seven people died that night. Most were confirmed dead by the local coroner but some have not been found but are presumed dead, incinerated by the blasts. Two thousand people were evacuated from the site, forty buildings and fifty three vehicles were destroyed.

Aerial photographs of the site show over six blocks of scorched ground. The spill contaminated thirty-one hectares of land, and a hundred thousand litres of crude oil ended up in Mégantic lake and the Chaudière river via the town’s sewer systems, surface flow, and underground infiltration.

As with any disaster of this magnitude, heads must roll for it, figuratively, not literally. In this case, it is three former Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway employees who are on the chopping block, though not everyone agrees they are the ones who should be.

Some Lac Mégantic residents like Jean Paradis resent that the executives of the now bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway are safely in the United States instead of answering to survivors in Quebec. Paradis was inside a bar when it happened and watched his friends die in the fire. He told Global News the rail company put making money above safety measures.

A train belonging to the now bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway

“Security should be first, not third,” he said.

The Transportation and Safety Board of Canada (TSBC) seems to confirm the notion that the management of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway are somewhat responsible for the disaster. Their report released in August 2014 following a lengthy investigation revealed many factors contributing to what happened which included:

  • Improper repairs
  • Mechanical issues i.e. things being bent out of shape, brakes not working, engine problems
  • “Weak safety structure”

Chemical engineer Jean-Paul Lacoursière of the University of Sherbrooke read the report and agrees that railway management should at the very least be called to testify at the trial. His impression is that the company did not make sure employees were properly trained, nor did they make sure they understood the training they received. He feels this lack of leadership, risk management, and ineffective training were all contributing factors to the disaster.

It is not the leadership of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway or even the company itself that’s on trial. Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas’ instructions to the jury included a reminder that the railway company is not on trial, and that they must treat the defendants as if they were facing three separate trials for forty seven counts of negligence causing death.

The prosecution, led by Crown Prosecutor Valerie Beauchamp, plans to present thirty six witnesses. The trial is expected to go on until just before Christmas. The residents of Lac Mégantic, for the most part, just want to move on from what happened, equating the trial of Harding, Demaitre, and Labrie to holding generals responsible for losing a war.

As the town recovers, we must not forget who we lost in the disaster. Instead of speculating on the outcome of the ongoing trial, I’m going to conclude with a list of the victims below.

Let’s not focus on how they died, but remember them for who they were and how they lived.

Andrée-Anne Sévigny – Age 26
David Martin – Age 36
Michel Junior Guertin – Age 33
Éliane Parenteau-Boulanger- Age 93
Élodie Turcotte – Age 18
Geneviève Breton – Age 28
Guy Bolduc – Age 43
Henriette Latulippe – Age 61
Talitha Coumi Bégnoche – Age 30
Bianka Begnoche – Age 9
Alyssa Begnoche – Age 4
Jean Pierre Roy – Age 56
Jimmy Sirois – Age 30
Marie-Semie Alliance – Age 22
Joanie Turmel – Age 29
Gaetan Lafontaine – Age 33
Kevin Roy – Age 29
Marianne Poulin – Age 23
Marie-France Boulet – Age 62
Richard Veilleux – Age 63
Martin Rodrigue – Age 48
Maxime Dubois – Age 27
Melissa Roy – Age 29
Natachat Gaudeau – Age 41
Réal Custeau – Age 57
Stephane Bolduc – Age 37
Karine Champagne – Age 36
Sylvie Charron – Age 50
Yves Boulet – Age 51
Marie Noelle Faucher – Age 36
Kathy Clusiault – Age 24
Karine Lafontaine – Age 35
Diane Bizier – Age 46
Éric Pépin Lajeunesse – Age 28
Fréderic Boutin – Age 19
Yannick Bouchard – Age 36
Stéphane Lapièrre – Age 45
Roger Paquet – Age 61
David Lacroix-Beaudoin – Age 27
Mathieu Pelletier – Age 29
Jean Guy Vielleux – Age 32
Jo Annie Lapointe – Age 20
Lucie Vadnais – Age 49
Jacques Giroux – Age 65
Louisette Poirier-Picard – Age 76
Denise Dubois – Age 57
Wilfrid Ratsch – Age 78

It was like being at a playground with no bullies, an island where the mean kids were eaten by the piranhas in the mote. Human centipedes and oversized drag queens ran wild, smiling half naked fat people covered in glitter howling at the moon, everyone was queer, penises had goggly eyes, dildos were flying free, dog shit was on the menu, size 13 heels digging into the dirt as we followed a trail of Tiki torches, whip it remains, discarded wigs, and plastic pink flamingos towards true freedom, the safest safe space, a revolution, true freaks united to exist in a place of pure bliss. Welcome to Camp John Waters.

I drove to Kent, Connecticut from Buffalo NY, stopping to steal a kiss at 4:20 and send my roomie/bestie/ride or die/ down AF off to the NY Burlesque Festival for the weekend (because YES, Camp JW is even more important than THAT).

I remember months ago a few of my friends shared a link about the camp and I knew right away that I needed to be here. Born to wander solitary, I love going places alone, you never know what you will get into or who you will connect with.

I had my costumes ready months ago, we did a show at The Buffalo Infringement Festival called Don’t Go Chasing John Waterfalls. It was a tribute to John Waters.

All of my costumes were shoved into black trash bags and thrown into my HHR. This weekend was going to be the biggest audition of my life! When I read the description I imagined Divine on a zipline, Edith Massey on water-skis, or Mink stole with a flaming bow and arrow. I couldn’t wait to do boondoggle with weirdos and tell sexual horror stories around the campfire.

My first look was strong. I considered breaking it out for the costume contest but am glad I chose how I did. I wore the perfect Aunt Ida black jumpsuit. A thriftstore find, I remember putting it on excitedly after finding it on the pajama rack without panties on.

Labia to the crotch of the most perfect vinyl 90’s fetish wear, that was DEFINITELY worn. I inadvertently had sex with that person’s old crusty juices. The dust of ancient crabs couldn’t keep this perfect item of clothing off of me.

That is the kind of commitment I have to a life of true filth. Filth is my life, filth is my politics, filth is freedom and revolution.

I strutted toward dinner, this was a party that everyone arrived late to. The tent felt like a wedding, I sat alone, and then was joined by beautiful people, who would quickly all become my trashmates.

I watched John Waters eat. That felt strangely stalkery, so I then just shoved bread dipped in red lipstick and glitter in my mouth and looked everywhere else. People lined up to talk to him while he was eating. AMATEURS, I thought.

He told us some camp stories, motivated us all to be a little more political, inspired some circle jerks, and made me happy that I came. Where will I be at 71? John Waters has done it, and still fucking does it!

Bad taste is my fetish. That dream lit tent was overflowing with creative juices (and other juices too I am sure). Everyone was sensational, it was a totally empowering celebration.

The meet and greet was incredible, but strangely anti-climatic since I knew my real chance to shine was the costume contest. John asked me if my name was spelled with a C or a K, I told him C but that I would literally change my name if he spelled it the other way. Then he asked me if my mom was a stripper or a hippy. I said both, naturally. My polyester floral dress looked perfect next to his blue toned blazer.

Quickly drunk off of my new friends’ wristbands and whatever the drug fairy was handing out. The music was awkward at times, but the Camp Getaway staff made up for it!

Bluto was our jolly host, he partied harder than all of us. His wonky Edna Turnblad tits were on point. Color wars involved team building exercised like bouncing on a horse, tossing water balloons, and breaking balloons with a pelvic thrust. Team red baby, I bounced us to victory that round. Lunch with Pissy was brilliant, I fucking loved her blue sequins, crowd humping, and flawless mashups.

Except for this DJ. He didn’t get it. This was his reaction while I ate shit on stage. His fucking face is all the justification I need. Shocking, disturbing, out of control, yet still artful and smart.

Beautiful women with boners, vagina dentata, ALL OF THE LEOPARD, sky high drag queens with rubber tits and wigs that touch the ceiling, dykes with frizzed mullets, hand painted shirts, pencil thin mustaches, and pubic hair galore! I even saw a real live tea bagging!

I hear there was a blow job contest too! Does anyone know who won it? Was it in our dreams? Can we also talk about how spot on The Corny Collins Show in the boathouse was? It was perfectly decorated. The staff looked straight out of the 60’s. Integration for all!

They told us to just say our name and who our character was. I could not do that. This is my stage and I have layers on. I was right after the trash can. I ferociously grabbed the mic, put my gun in the air, and screamed KILL EVERYONE EAT SHIT I AM DIVINE!

Then I ripped off my perfect red sequin fishtail dress to reveal white fringe, and lifted the stuffed dog I was carrying, squeezed it, and as the “shit” plopped onto my face I knew that I had achieved my goal. As I bent over to reveal my giant skid mark I could hear him laugh and the crowd roared. I stormed off stage. History was made.

When he announced the winners I was ready. Third place was the best Hatchet Face, he was so good! The makeup, the movements, orgasmic! Then Number 2… THE STRIPPER THAT ATE SHIT! He commended me on giving a whole act.

The 1st place winner was the most spot on Aunt Ida in white, with the bloody hook hand and perfect hair. She looked like Edie back from beyond the grave. He ended with FUCK YOU MISS AMERICA!

Fuck yes! It was such an incredible moment a lifetime in the making. However, it had to end quicker than I wanted. I had to take a horrible shit the entire time I was on stage.

My biggest fear is that my chocolate stain would be an actual dihaerra stain dripping out of my tighty whities. I pooped myself in a Dollar General once while wearing a dress. Luckily it was a long dress and I got out of there before anyone saw.

This was not going to be one of those days. I rushed by my idol to go explode in the shitter. It could not have been more appropriate. In the end, it was all for a lousy t-shirt. That was what I officially won.

I want to call out all of the incredible people I met and experienced, but the list is too long.  A man painted a landscape with his cock and also fucked a stuffed chicken during the costume contest! Thank you, sir.

There were so many wonderful costumes, everyone was truly a star! So many quick changes, every meal was a new look. I was honored to be there.

I also won an audience with the Pope of Trash himself. I am a memory in his mind, hopefully a highlight from his inaugural camp. I knew very well that I really didn’t look like Divine, but I am a method actor like he was. I am an only child weirdo turned glamour queen.

My life changed when I first saw Hairspray and Pink Flamingos. I finally knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up” or whatever you want to call it . My color scheme was set.

I was obsessed with drag queens and all things subversive as a child. It was a definite sign of things to come. I was never afraid to be myself. Just like this night, I had only just begun.

We lingered outside for a long time after the party ended. My new friends sang and I did an impromptu burlesque number down to bare nips. The lights went out, then the real party began deep in the woods (just kidding it was like the first cabin)… it was MORTVILLE!

Our Queen made us all put our clothes on backwards and drink illegal liquor. There soon was a giant Plush Papa Smurf and Moose, that really spiced things up. The goggly eyes from my nipples ended up on the tip of a cigarette smoking dick. At one point there was a sphincter twirling the hypnotist wheel.

Debachery levels were high and so were we. There was so much sequins and lack of fucks. I could live in that time and place.

The Glam Gam gang from Montreal gets my vote for the Filthiest Campers! Especially my bizarro sibling, Michael J. McCarthy. Until this weekend, these wonderful creatures were just something I had seen on the internet.

I wrote a piece about their Odorama show at Cafe Cleo last year and fate brought us together. I can’t wait to perform with them in the future, look out for my triumphant return to Montreal!

I hated to go to sleep, but I had a burlesque class to teach in the morning. Wait, WHAT? How did that happen? I was in the right place at the right time. They had advertised burlesque and the instructor bailed. I jumped at the chance to teach TRASHLESQE right after a late breakfast to a bunch of hungover John Waters fans, my people.

I started off with some Divine into Iggy Pop I Wanna Be Your Dog. During the number I took a jar of chunky peanut butter out of my underoos. That was obviously homage to when Iggy Pop smeared peanut butter all over himself and his fans at a live concert. I saw Iggy for the first time this summer at Burger Boogaloo.

When I was done with my performance I asked if anyone wanted to clean off my cock. Nobody jumped at the chance. I was disappointed to say the least. Nobody lived up to my standard of filth that morning. I then proceeded to take two pieces of bread, wipe of the dick, and made me a sammich.

I then told the class to all remove their shirts and gave them a golden shower (glitter of course). LOVE YOUR BODY… touch yourself like you want to fuck yourself, own your sexuality, flaunt your flaws because they are perfection.

I asked people what they wanted their burlesque name to be, danced with them, and taught a few peeps how to spin tassels (it’s all in the knees). Burlesque is for everyone, just like the whole weekend in general. It doesn’t matter if you are big or small, young or old, male/female/trans/non binary, you have the freedom to express yourself and people will feed off of your positive energy.

Treating life as a stage will transform you to new states of being! You are powerful. Confidence kills all fear. THERE ARE NO BULLIES HERE!

Oh, Camp John Waters, how I loved you so. I was a lifeguard for awhile, floating on the giant inflatable flamingo  with my mullet, magnum condoms in my sweatband, just keeping people safe.

Sadly I am still too big for the zip line (250lb weight limit). Bloody Mary Bingo and Cards Against Humanity for the win.

Next year how about Divine and wine paint party? Make merkins and pasties? Adult balloon animals? Porn collages? Drag makeup workshops?

Yoga should be called Learn how to suck your own cock, Zumba should be called MILF Bod 101, booze should be served 24 hours, the bonfire should be a giant lobster effigy, and the end, there needs to be a Dirty Dancing-style talent show so all of the spectacular weirdos can strut their stuff and show the world that we are unstoppable.

I don’t have the heart to unpack. My car is still full of costumes and there is still crusty peanut butter on my pretty pink strap-on.

It is impossible to come down from such an incredible high. I met my idol AND impressed him. What next?

All I know is that I will be there next year! I am already signed up to perform and teach another Trashlesque class. Dreams to come true!

See you next year campers, I love you all. Stay trashy.

Chelsea Manning is a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst. She leaked thousands of military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks about civilian deaths and the abuse of detainees by the Iraqi forces under American supervision during the Iraq War.

She was arrested back in 2010 when she was known as Bradley Manning. In 2013 she was convicted of six breaches of the Espionage Act, though she was acquitted of the charge of Aiding the Enemy.

For her crimes, Manning was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. She served seven years before (now former) President Obama used his powers of presidential clemency to commute her sentence in 2016. Despite the commutation, when Chelsea Manning attempted to visit Canada this past Monday, she was denied entry.

At first glance, denying Manning entry into Canada feels absurd. Yes, she was convicted of a crime, but her sentenced was commuted.

That’s like a pardon, right? She should be allowed into Canada, right?

Unfortunately, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

The issue of whether or not convicted criminals are admissible to Canada is where the subjects of criminal and immigration law cross. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus primarily on convicted criminals from the United States who attempt to enter Canada.

Fortunately, Chelsea Manning herself generously posted on Twitter a copy of the letter she was given upon being denied entry by Canadian border agents:

The letter says that she was denied because of paragraph 36(1)(b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a federal law that defines admissibility and inadmissibility to Canada.

Article 36 of the law refers specifically to inadmissibility based on serious criminality. Some of the criteria under which someone would be considered inadmissible to Canada on grounds of serious criminality include:

  • Being convicted in Canada of a crime with a maximum jail term of ten years or
  • Being convicted of a crime outside of Canada that, if committed in Canada, would have resulted in a custodial sentence of at least ten years or
  • Being convicted of an indictable offense in Canada or
  • Being convicted of at least two indictable offenses not arising out of a single occurrence or
  • Being convicted of an offense that would have been considered an indictable one in Canada

Chelsea Manning was denied entry into Canada because as per the letter she received, her conviction made her inadmissible.

The crime she was convicted of  – leaking classified government information under the American Espionage Act – has a Canadian equivalent: treason. Under the Canadian Criminal Code, the maximum penalty for treason is life imprisonment. As the rules state, if the crime you were convicted of abroad would carry a sentence of ten or more years in jail if you’d committed it in Canada, you’re inadmissible for entry into the country.

Canada and the United States generally do not recognize each other’s pardons.

An American pardon does not mean a conviction will be invisible to border agents. Though the information they find will likely indicate the pardon and might tell border agents that the person has rehabilitated themselves, it’s no guarantee they’ll get into Canada.

Chelsea Manning did not receive a pardon from Barack Obama, her sentence was commuted.

A pardon would mean her crime was forgiven and it would be as if she’d never committed it.

According to the US Department of Justice which handles requests for presidential clemency, a commutation of a sentence does not change the fact that a person was convicted of a crime, nor does it imply innocence, or remove any barriers a person would have as a result of their conviction.

All a commutation does is reduce the person’s sentence, either partially or completely. In the case of Chelsea Manning, she served seven years in prison instead of the thirty-five prescribed by her sentence.

Manning may be out of jail, but the other consequences of her criminal conviction remain.

That said, Chelsea Manning has promised to appeal the decision of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but she will have a tough road ahead. Her crime is considered “serious criminality” under Canadian law, and according to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there is no way to appeal a decision of inadmissibility on grounds of serious criminality.

According to Buzzfeed, a source close to Manning said she would appeal on the grounds that there is really no equivalence to the US Espionage Act in Canadian Law or the law of other countries besides the US.

There is, however, a way to pre-empt a potential refusal at the Canadian border for criminality reasons.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has a process called “Criminal Rehabilitation” that allows foreign nationals with criminal convictions to apply for individual criminal rehabilitation allowing them to enter Canada. It should be noted, however, that even if Manning had filled out such an application, she would not currently be approved due to its selection criteria, which requires that at least five years have passed since the completion of her sentence.

Travel of any kind can be a nuisance, but it is doubly so if you come a long way only to realize you’re being barred from your destination due to a past criminal conviction. Annoying as they are, some argue that rules regarding criminality and admissibility to Canada are essential to national security. Others, like Canadian free speech attorney Jameel Jaffer, who spoke with The Intercept on the subject, feel there is no way Manning could possibly pose a threat to Canadian security.

Chelsea Manning is a hero to some and a traitor to others. The issue with her coming to Canada seemed not to do with her crimes, but with the fact that she was convicted. She may be able to come Canada some day, but for now it looks like she’ll have to wait five years.

Why do people get turned on by the chase? It is easier to feel tingles for someone who is out of reach. Why are the tingles so fucking important?

When someone is sitting there legs spread, waiting for me in worship, I always hold back. Thinking it’s too easy, it’s too good to be true, too sweet an offer to just blindly accept. Like a free cruise or money from a Nigerian Prince, there must be a catch. This incredible, smart, beautiful human can’t possibly be ga-ga over me, can they? I always feel like the big green monster clumsily making my way through life.

The greatest loves of my life thus far have been unrequited, crushing on the ones who don’t want anything to do with me. Loving those who are out of reach because I am addicted to the hurt. I don’t know my own worth.

Spending years being easy because it is easier to be easy. Love who you can get, fuck the one you are with. Maybe something will grow? I guarantee it won’t be love. Love is more often pretend than achieved, not to be taken lightly or deceived.

I want to worship the one who worships me back. I want to travel the world with someone who is proud to hold my hand. I want to be vegan together. I want to grow. Make art. Make love in beautiful places, touch me under a waterfall, hold me under the stars, kiss me in my car, let me know that I am not alone by simply being with me.

I have spoken of radical requited love before, but only now am I truly believing in it. Or am I? I don’t know what I believe. In any aspect of my life really. I spend my days in a cloud of general confusion. But I do know one thing: “My love, my love, my love she keeps me warm.” I have always loved that Mary Lambert song. I have to look in the mirror and tell me that I deserve it. The warmth of arms protecting me, holding something they cherish.

I know I am incredible. I do shit, I am someone, I fucking sparkle. I always knew that someone would come along and compliment me. Not just a color out of the tube, this person must me a mix of all the good, a new shade, completely original, wrapping their soul around mine in a sweet song, a delicate embrace, perfect understanding, and wavelength compatible.

I never want to be a wife. The fantasy still does not cross my mind. That word means property. I am a partner, in crime and happiness, bliss and misfortune.

I have been single for so long that I don’t know what it’s like to be dependent on another. I don’t need to lean on you.

I have been contemplating polyamory for years, since I picked up the book The Ethical Slut in a radical bookshop in Indiana years ago. I never thought it was viable because I couldn’t imagine finding even one person to love me, let alone many. But I see it. I see the beauty in never ending your options, never shutting yourself off forever. There is no be all end all. Love is fluid and ferocious. It is an organism, alive and pulsing, spewing.

Saying I love you is another thing altogether. I wonder if I have ever actually said it and felt it at the same time. I know that I have said it and I know that I also have felt it, but really there is a grey zone. I remember saying it in those early relationships, boys who wanted to wife me, I loved how they loved me. But I don’t think I loved them, not really, I was not capable of it at that point.

I have met someone. She is so kind, a daughter of the earth and stars, she makes my heart smile, she cares about animals, she cooks, she hikes, she is a musician. I can’t find a single flaw in her. It is a feeling like no other, to hold someone who looks at you with wonder, looks at you like the sun rises and sets in your eyes. My flaws fade away when she sweetly kisses them. My beautiful sunflower queen stands now on serene mountain path that she built.

I want something to go wrong. I make things go wrong when I feel like I am not worthy. It is strange how easy this is. Strange how simple it is to just be together. I always feel like something has to give. Instead I need to just let it be, enjoy the bliss like a woman’s hand on a canvas, spreading and pushing paint, blowing it with her sweet lips, spit.

She sent me flowers, big bright yellow sunflowers bursting out of a now forgotten moldy vase. Now dried and shriveled memories on my dashboard. I want to buy her a drum and plant a field of sunflowers for us to dance in. I want to twirl my dress for her.

Let’s eat vegan donuts and listen to Ani Difranco. Let’s dive into each other. Let’s drive across the country. Let’s paint on the same canvas, strapped between two trees in the forest, on a path that you built for me to wander down.

There is room for me to finally be happy. Room to explore. I harbor others negativity, I hold their pain in my heart until it is as unrecognizable as my own. I choose happiness. I want to spread legs and love, spread kindness and open doors of bliss and positivity, open arms to all humanity. Nobody is immune to loneliness. Everyone deserves this loveliness.

How does one exactly “do” lesbian sex? Fingering, fisting, eating out, scissoring? I was told it’s awesome to grind your clit on a girl’s tits. Dildos: double ended strap-on rabbit shake butt plug, give your clitoris a hug. Which is the top tonight? Switch bitch. I just want to touch and rub, rub, rub.

I have never fucked a woman with a strap on cock. I have always fucked women tenderly, not wanting to hurt them, but I know I like to be fucked differently. I need to fuck how I want to be fucked. Dive into masculine femininity, hot oozing butch, luscious layers of genderfuck brilliance.

Love is like an orgasm. Elusive. Freeing. Scary. Easy to fake, but not really. Not as common as you think. I still don’t think I have had one – an orgasm or true love. Or if I have it hasn’t been as earth shattering and mind blowing as the description on the back of the box indicates. Uncommon like the butterflies of blissful ignorance.

Back to the tingles, it always stems back to them. I can remember the moments that people have made me tingle. It lights up your whole body, makes you feel scared and alive. That means you are nervous, right? So the tingles aren’t good? Do I ever make tingles erupt in her body?

Pins and needles in my lady parts, butterflies engulf my insides, flutter softly, swarm sweetly though my whole entire body, out my fingertips when I touch you. Yearning, CRAVING, full desire, want, need, must be with, dreaming in waking life. You are behind my eyes and I can see the future. I will run through our field of sunflowers, stroking the petals and eating the seeds to make sure it isn’t a dream. Guess, I’m not as scared as I thought.

In 2014, a truck ran into and killed cyclist Mathilde Blais as she rode through an underpass on St-Denis. City Hall opposition party Projet Montreal and other groups immediately called for something to be done. Now, it seems like the solution Mayor Denis Coderre’s administration came up with is to turn a potentially dangerous situation for cyclists into a different potentially dangerous situation for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The sidewalk on Atwater Avenue between Rene Levesque and St-Antoine heading towards the underpass near Lionel Groulx Metro is now also a bike path. At least that’s what the paint city workers put there indicates.

“They’re basically setting up future collisions between pedestrians and cyclists,” said Craig Sauvé, City Councillor with Projet Montréal in a phone interview, “or worse, if a cyclist has to veer into traffic at the last second to avoid hitting a pedestrian.”

Sauvé, who represents St-Henri, Little Burgundy and Pointe St-Charles and is a cyclist himself, knew that changes were coming, changes he and his party had pushed for, but seeing what the Coderre administration had actually done left him feeling bewildered and a little bit panicked.

“They’re not securing,” he commented, “they’re putting paint and saying it’s secure. In order to secure places, you have to give cyclists their space as well and if you don’t they’re going to take it and it will be the same zero sum game as there was before.”

Montreal’s bike paths are controlled by City Hall, regardless of the borough or boroughs (or even de-merged cities) they run through. Atwater isn’t the only recent painted change to come to light. On Montée de Liesse, paint directs cyclists to somehow drive onto a part of sidewalk that doesn’t even dip. If they dismount, they would be doing so in traffic:

Photo credit: u/butidigest on reddit

For Sauvé, a good solution to this mess would be delineating and protecting part of the roads going through underpasses with an actual barrier like one made of cement or even plastic poles. Something which, he observes, quite doable on Atwater as there are currently three lanes of traffic in either direction, one of which could easily be turned into a space for cyclists.

And that’s exactly what Sauvé, fellow politicans, activists and concerned citizens were asking the Coderre administration to do. It’s really not that hard. Instead of paint, just bring some plastic poles.

It seems like Coderre is all for bike safety as long as it doesn’t inconvenience motorists in the slightest. The health and safety of pedestrians is not even an afterthought, it’s inconsequential.

As a proud member of the BMW Set (bus, metro, walk), that just doesn’t fly. I’ve walked through that particular underpass countless times on the sidewalk and know that, especially when walking up the rather steep hill, the last thing you want to contend with is bikes whipping down it.

I wonder if anyone involved in planning these new “bike paths” had ever rode a bike or walked through any of the underpasses in question. It honestly looks like a mistake, one that they are repeating all across the city.

Could it be that they just don’t know? More likely they don’t really care and see bike safety as something they grudgingly pay lip service to and pedestrian safety as something that only matters when a bad story makes the news.

If the city really wants to make things safer for cyclists, they should ask cyclists what to do and really should consult pedestrians before dual-zoning a sidewalk on a rather steep incline. Otherwise they’ll wind up replacing one dangerous situation with one potentially more treacherous.

* Listen to the full interview with Craig Sauvé on the next FTB Podcast

The notion of pardons has made headlines recently with the Orange President’s pardoning of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio is involved in a racial profiling in a case in which his patrols targeted and imprisoned Latinos in an attempt to crack down on illegal immigration. He was ordered to stop but Arpaio told his subordinates he planned to continue business as usual. He was convicted of contempt of court and facing six months in jail…

That is until the Orange Racist decided to pardon him on August 27, 2017.

This article is not about the fact that the US President, Arpaio, and the US Attorney General are clearly America’s senile, racist grandpas who should have been left in nursing homes ages ago…

It’s about pardons and will look at how pardons work in the US and Canada. For the American model, I’ll focus on the Presidential Pardon as that is the one the Orange President is most likely to abuse as the Russia scandal unfolds.

Record Suspension in Canada

In Canada, a pardon is formally called a “record suspension” and despite what many think, it does not wipe your slate clean of any crimes you were convicted of in the past.

A record suspension means that your criminal record will be kept separate from your other criminal records. That means it will be removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database and won’t come up on a search. The purpose of this is to allow those convicted of a crime that have successfully rehabilitated themselves to reintegrate into society by opening up educational and employment opportunities they would not otherwise have access to.

Criminal record suspensions are governed by the Criminal Records Act. Though it only applies to records kept by federal organizations, most provincial and municipal criminal justice bodies will also restrict access to a federally suspended record once informed that a suspension has been ordered.

As per the Act, the Parole Board of Canada (“the Board”) has exclusive jurisdiction and “absolute discretion” to order, refuse or revoke a record suspension. Anyone convicted of an offense under Canadian law can apply to the Board for a record suspension, but there are a few catches.

First, you cannot apply for a record suspension until a certain time has elapsed after the expiration of your sentence. If your sentence was more than six months long or your fine greater than five thousand dollars, or if you were dismissed from the Canadian Forces – army, navy, or air force – and detained for a period of six months or had a punishment of over two years as per the scale of punishments set out in the National Defense Act, you must wait ten years before applying for a record suspension. If the offense was punishable on a summary conviction – a lesser type of penalty in which the maximum punishment is five thousand dollars or six months in prison – or is an offense other than those covered by rules for servicemen, you must wait five years before applying for a pardon.

It should be noted that there are some types of offenders who are ineligible for a record suspension regardless of how much time has elapsed since their conviction and sentence. People who have been convicted of sexual offenses towards minors as well as the trafficking of minors are usually ineligible for record suspensions. There is, however, an exception to this rule, and this where the Parole Board’s discretion comes in.

A person convicted of the above offenses can apply for a record suspension but will only get it if the Parole Board is convinced that the former offender was not in a position of authority towards the victim nor was the victim in a situation of dependency on the offender at the time of the offense. In addition, the Board must also be convinced that the offender did not use violence, coercion or intimidation against the victim. The offender also needs to be less than five years older than the victim.

It’s not just people who commit sex crimes against kids who cannot get a pardon in Canada. Any person convicted of more than three offenses prosecuted by indictment in which they were sentenced to two years or more in prison are also ineligible without exception.

If you successfully get a record suspended, it does not erase the conviction or the record of it. It simply sets it aside and can be revoked or cease to have effect if you’re convicted of a new crime, found to “no longer be of good conduct”, found to have lied, provided misleading information, or hidden info on your application, or if you weren’t eligible for a pardon when you applied. If you were convicted of a sex crime against minors but managed to get a record suspension under the Parole Board’s discretion, your file will still be flagged under the CPIC in the off chance that you try and volunteer or find a job working with a vulnerable group such as the elderly or children.

Pardons in the US

In the US, the Constitution grants the president the power to “Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment”. That means that he can pardon just about anyone for any criminal offense. As in Canada, the pardon can be used only for criminal offenses.

With a pardon, the president forgives the commission of the offense. According to the US Supreme Court, pardons can be issued at any time “after [the commission of an offense], either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment”.

It is customary for the President to grant pardons based on the recommendations of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is charged with reviewing applications for presidential clemency. Their standards for assessing applications are according to the applicant’s post-conviction conduct, character, and reputation, the seriousness of the offense and how recently it was committed, the offender’s acceptance of responsibility for the offense and sense of remorse and atonement, “the need for relief” and official reports and recommendations. It should be noted however that the president is under no obligation to follow the DOJ’s recommendations nor can the DOJ restrict the president’s power to pardon under the US constitution.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

In order for a pardon to work, a warrant of pardon must be physically delivered to the person granted it. The recipient then can either accept it or reject it. If it is rejected, the courts cannot force the person to take it.

Unlike in Canada where the record is simply set aside, a presidential pardon has the effect of ending the punishment and “obliterates both conviction and guilt which places the offender in a position as if he or she had not committed the offense in the first place”.

Though presidential pardons appear absolute, there are many legal experts in the US challenging this because of Sheriff Arpaio.

Protect Democracy, an activist group fighting the President’s violations of legal norms recently sent a letter to the DOJ arguing that the pardon was granted in violation of its limits set out in the constitution. The group argues that the Constitution of 1787 is limited by later amendments including the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal protection before the law, and the Fifth Amendment guaranteeing due process.

In Arpaio’s case the Fifth Amendment comes into play because his actions leading to the conviction routinely violated Americans’ right to due process before the law and that in order to enforce this rule, the courts must be able to restrain government officials breaking them.

Whether the challenge succeeds or not remains to be seen, as there is no legal precedent for doing so.

As a rule, pardons do more good than bad. They allow people who made mistakes they’ve atoned for to move on and become productive members of society. As in anything, there is a danger when the power to pardon is absolute and vested in only one person, especially when that person is a senile, racist, whining misogynist.

It will be up to the American people and especially American jurists to recognize that what happens with Arpaio will be one more step in determining whether they are truly committed to democracy and rule of law or have resigned themselves to rule by an incompetent dictator.